Is It Really An Emergency? When to Take Your Child to The ER


Having two boys eight and five, it’s surprising that we haven’t made more trips to the ER than we have already. To be honest, each child has only had one ER visit each in the span of their lives.  I think that’s pretty impressive for boys that come to me daily for kisses on bonked heads, knees and elbows. It’s funny my youngest actually had an ER visit before my oldest did. He thought it was a great idea to swallow a button battery. You can read that post here. My oldest had a terrible stomach virus that had him so dehydrated. We first went right to his regular doctor before she saw signs that he needed to be admitted immediately.

In both cases, my boys turned out fine, however, ER visits contribute to hefty bills for non-emergency services that could be handled elsewhere. In the past decade, there has been an explosion of affordable, convenient health care options – including urgent care, telemedicine, retail clinics and on-site work clinics – that provide on-demand services for a fraction of the price of an ER visit.

The Urgent Care Association of America (UCAOA) wants to help educate patients about these options so they understand when to go to each, saving valuable time and money, your money!

It is important to identify whether the ailment is an emergency or just urgent. Swallowing a button battery, in my opinion, was an emergency. Due to what I’ve heard about button battery explosions in the esophagus, I knew he needed immediate help. A broken arm or leg would definitely be an emergency. However, a high temperature would simply be urgent, and urgent care clinics such as csu health center are better places to go often for half the cost. 

So is your ailment Urgency or Emergency?

Today, the growing number of ER-alternative options is making it easier for patients to save money without sacrificing quality of care for non-emergency conditions. When selecting a health care provider, consider the three C’s: care, convenience, and cost.

  • Care: Evaluate the severity of your symptoms and identify what services you may need. Life- or limb-threatening issues should always send you to the ER. Anything else can likely be treated elsewhere.
  • Convenience: Know what healthcare facilities are available nearby, as well as their hours of operation, to determine the best option.
  • Cost: Understand which providers are covered by your insurance, or if there are any requirements such as pre-authorization.

Selecting On-Demand Healthcare Options

Emergency departments are designed to handle the most serious life-threatening, emergency situations that require immediate attention. Emergency care can be costly for those with less acute illnesses or injuries, resulting in an average wait time of more than an hour and a much higher bill. A study in Health Affairs found about 13-27 percent of all emergency room visits could take place at an urgent care or retail clinic, which could save $4.4 billion in healthcare spending annually. This is your money that could remain in your pocket, and reduce the wait time in ER’s daily. 

For less severe conditions, consider one of these ER-alternatives:

 Urgent Care Center

Urgent care centers provide a robust spectrum of care for immediate but non-emergency or life-threatening situations, treating everything from the flu and broken bones to asthma and concussion screening. Urgent cares are equipped to handle illnesses and injuries requiring X-rays, intravenous fluids and on-site lab tests. Focused on convenience, urgent cares offer short wait times and affordable care, with services covered by most insurance providers.


Retail Clinics

Retail clinics, or walk-in clinics, are typically found in local supermarkets or pharmacies and offer a variety of wellness services for conditions less serious than those handled at urgent care centers or ERs. Retail clinics treat uncomplicated minor illnesses and provide preventative care such as vaccinations.



Telemedicine connects patients with providers for virtual visits regardless of distance, increasing access to care while reducing costs and travel time. I have used to refill a prescription when there was a wait to get in to see my doctor for over a month! I live in a small town which means everyone and their mother see the same doctor, which means long wait times to get in to see someone, even a nurse practitioner. Using Amwell, was easy even though they did not support my insurance at the time. (I haven’t logged on recently to see if they do now) I simply paid a $50 fee and got my prescription sent to my local pharmacy and it was easy!  

Many healthcare organizations adopt telemedicine options to make better use of resources and reach a larger population of patients remotely. Urgent care centers, for example, use online telemedicine platforms to treat patients in rural communities, or for brief consultations and follow-ups that do not require in-person visits. 


On-Site Clinic

Many employers are now offering on-site clinics to their employees to increase access to health care. Similar to retail clinics, on-site clinics offer wellness and preventative services that vary per location.


Learn to Differentiate

Free-standing emergency rooms are facilities that are not attached to a hospital but often charge the same high cost of care found at the ER. These free-standing facilities are often mistaken for urgent care centers. Double check that the facility you choose offers the services and insurance or payment options that best suit your needs.

When seeking care for non-life or -limb threatening situations, patients should make sure that the facility they’re visiting identifies itself as an urgent care or immediate care center, and not as an emergency department. Patients can find a conveniently located urgent care center near them at


 About the Urgent Care Association of America

The Urgent Care Association of America (UCAOA) is a membership association for urgent care health and management professionals, clinics and those who support the urgent care industry. UCAOA provides educational programs in clinical care and practice management has a monthly Journal of Urgent Care Medicine and maintains an active online presence and member community for daily exchange of best practices. UCAOA provides leadership, education, and resources for the successful practice of urgent care for its members. For more information visit

About Heather Jones

I'm just a wife and mom of two boys trying to find her place in this world. I enjoy walks around the lake, bible journaling, and RV camping with my family.

Heartfully Heather


This blog is a personal blog written and edited by me, Heather Jones. For questions about this blog, please contact me via the “Contact Me” link on the top menu bar or click here. This blog accepts forms of cash advertising, sponsorship, paid insertions or other forms of compensation.

Disclosure Policy For Reviews / Guest/Sponsored Posts: 

The compensation received may influence the advertising content, topics or posts made in this blog. That content, advertising space or post may not always be identified as paid or sponsored content.

The owner of this blog is compensated to provide opinions on products, services, websites and various other topics. Even though the owner of this blog receives compensation for posts or advertisements, I (we) always give our honest opinions, findings, beliefs, or experiences on those topics or products. The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely the bloggers’ own. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer, provider or party in question.

To see more of my disclosure policy please click here.

Heather Jones

I'm just a wife and mom of two boys trying to find her place in this world. I enjoy walks around the lake, bible journaling, and RV camping with my family.

9 thoughts on “Is It Really An Emergency? When to Take Your Child to The ER

  1. With the high cost of deductibles most of us have with our insurances these days going to an emergency room when it’s not necessary can really cost you a lot of money. Knowing when you can go to an urgent care or even use an online teleclinic can really make a difference. These are great tips to help you make that decision.

  2. I think these are all great options to choose from when you are in need of medical attention for a non-life threatening health issue. I would suggest though to keep a journal or a diary to write down the medications given or shots administered in these health facilities/services for reference when you do need to schedule a doctors appointment.

  3. I do not have a kid & this has been informative for me. ERs could really get pricey so it is important that one knows if a situation truly calls for a visit to the ER. Here in my country, health care is very very expensive and it would help that people are informed and stuff. We sure could use Telemedicine here or a similar concept.

  4. These are great tips especially for new parents. It’s important to know when your child needs medical attention.

  5. Very helpful! It can be hard to know sometimes if your child is truly in need of emergency care or if it is just an overreaction from a boo-boo. I have an accident prone son, and it is so important to be aware and assess every accident. Most are nothing, but some definitely require medical attention.

  6. I do find it very upsetting sometimes when I see people going to the ER for things like a little cough. That’s not an emergency and can take away from someone who really is in an emergency situation. Love this article.

  7. We went through this occasionally with our oldest but had a good support group so we often went to an instacare for most things. We hardly ever go to the ER unless we KNOW it is as an emergency.

What are your thoughts?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.